CORONA DEL MAR — As the strikeouts mounted, Nick Premer knew his pitches were mounting, as well.
Newport Beach Little League Majors Division players are allowed 85 pitches a day.
Premer was masterful with every one.
After coming in to close out the third inning, Premer went the rest of the way, his longest outing of the season for Chamberlain Group.
He struck out the first seven batters he faced. Lucky for the Chamberlain team, he struck out the last one, as well.
On his 85th and final pitch, Premer produced his 16th strikeout, and then prepared for his teammates to mob him.
Chamberlain Group had just outlasted Fleming's, 3-2, in an epic nine-inning Majors Division championship game Saturday at Lincoln Elementary.
"It was great to win another championship," said Premer, who had won his first Majors title two years ago. "It was a lot of fun."
Premer, who struck out 16 of the 20 batters he faced and allowed no hits and one walk, was the one not talking much after the game.
It didn't matter. His smile gave him away.
"It's the kind of thing that happens once a year in Little League," Chamberlain Group Manager Shawn Miller said. "To have it happen in the championship is what's extraordinary, to do it under pressure."
It capped a huge run from Chamberlain Group (15-8), the American League champion only after losing its first playoff game via mercy rule. But six must-win games later, the team is the NBLL champion.
"We knew that if we lost another one we'd be out," Chamberlain's Jordan Hauser said. "I think it kind of pumped us up to play better."
Premer also scored the winning run in the top of the ninth inning, walking with one out and eventually scoring from third after the ball got past the catcher. Chamberlain Group almost scored another run in the inning on another passed ball, but Fleming's catcher Jack Genova dove back toward home plate to just tag out Hauser.
Fleming's (16-6), the National League champion, had jumped out to a 2-0 lead after three innings. Blake Kormos scored in the second on Sam Kobrine's sacrifice fly and Cameron Kormos singled to lead off the third and eventually scored.
But Chamberlain Group responded, scoring an unearned run in the fourth as Hauser scored and another in the fifth. Ben Gillman walked leading off the inning and scored on a three-base error when David Kaye's bunt was thrown away behind first base.
Chamberlain Group almost took the lead in the top of the sixth, but was stymied by a highlight-reel play from Fleming's center fielder Jonathan White. White threw out a runner trying to score on a fly ball, his perfect throw coming on the fly to Genova. The play preserved the 2-2 tie at the time.
"I think it was the best played Little League game I've ever seen," Shawn Miller said. "For nine innings, to basically have error-free baseball in a 3-2 game? They threw a guy out from dead center field. Fleming's played spectacular, spectacular defense today."
Chamberlain Group starter Collin Rogers gave up just the two unearned runs in 2 2/3 innings of work. Fleming's also had stellar pitching behind Alex Shadid and Brett Super.
Premer, who was two for two with a double and two walks, said he knew going into the ninth that he had relatively few pitches left. Fleming's Manager Mike Favreau was just hoping to get Premer past the pitch limit, to get another Chamberlain pitcher in.
Favreau appeared to have hope after his son Will's one-out walk, but Premer shut the door by striking out the final two batters.
It was clear that Premer was the man, especially when his teammates found out that he struck out 16.
"More than [Stephen] Strasburg," said Chamberlain Group leadoff hitter Cole Samuels, referencing the Washington Nationals rookie pitcher who struck out 14 in his Major League Baseball debut on Tuesday.
Favreau, the longtime NBLL coach, said Saturday's game was one of the best he'd been a part of.
"I wish you the best," Favreau told Premer after the game with a hint of a smile on his face. "And I hope you make all-stars."
Chamberlain Group had four hits, two from Premer and one each by Rogers and Harry Miller. Gillman also walked three times. Hudson Davis, Chase Garbers, Dillon Davis and Matthew Truninger also contributed.
Blake and Cameron Kormos each had a hit for Fleming's, as did Will Favreau and Alec Tak.